Caregivers are unpaid individuals who look after members of their family and assist them in performing daily activities. People often associate caregiving as rewarding and meaningful for the caregivers. In reality, it can be an all-consuming responsibility that requires resilience and both physical and emotional strength to carry out the job effectively.
According to a research, in 2015, approximately 34.2 million Americans provided unpaid care for their elder relatives, parents or parents-in-law. Out of these, 15.7 million looked after Alzheimer’s or other dementia patients.
In addition, 1 in 6 Americans works full-time or part-time, along with taking care of an elderly or disabled family member. Most of them who work at least 15 hours per week identified the toll caregiving has on their jobs.
Despite the immense burden and emotional demands of providing care, most of the caregivers are females. A study revealed that more than 75% of caregivers are females who may spend as much as 50% more time looking after the patients than males.
Problems of working caregivers
A vast majority of these women have to hold on to challenging jobs to earn the cost of living. The combined effort of looking after a close one and performing well in the office is not only tough but also exhausting and often frustrating.
Home Instead Senior Care is the largest senior care organization in the world, where two-thirds of the caregivers are females. They conducted a survey, Daughters in the Workplace, to analyze the effects of dual responsibilities (caregiving and employment) on 1001 women from U.S. and Canada.
Some of the findings are as follows:
- 83% said that caregiving had strained their ability to manage their life and work balance
- Half of them feel like they have to choose between being a good employee and a good daughter
- 25% conceded that being a good caregiver has affected the quality of their work
- 23% of the women’s supervisors were unsympathetic towards their problems of balancing work and caregiving responsibilities
- 13% have not been considered for promotion or raise, or have been penalized due to caregiving
- 9% said that their job is at risk because of their caregiving duties
The discovery is disturbing because the majority of respondents feel that have to choose between their jobs and caregiving responsibilities. This is largely because of the immense requirements of looking after a disabled person as well as the stigma associated with taking time off for caregiving.
The survey also stated that some female caregivers, who also work, are making perpetual sacrifices at both their jobs and caregiving duties despite being supported by employers.
However, Paul Hogan, co-founder, and chairman of Home Instead explained that:
“Even with greater recognition if employers don’t back that up with tools and resources, they will not be alleviating any of the strains. Employers tend to go deep into childcare, drug and alcohol abuse, and financial planning in their EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs), but are thin when it comes to senior care.”
As a result, in spite of understanding the dilemma faced by working caregivers, the employers fail to offer any compensation for them. Most of the companies lack a comprehensive system or support programs that can supplement the efforts of their employees who also take care of their family members.
Furthermore, the incessant demands of leading a quality life and saving money often make it impossible for women to quit their jobs. They are bound by their two-fold responsibilities where each task is equally important and requires their utmost concentration.
Especially caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients who require round-the-clock care and assistance have it worst. Caring for dementia patients is not only overwhelming but also heartbreaking. It can be devastating to see someone you love very dearly to fade away before you.
What can be done to help working family caregivers?
Many caregivers take up the noble cause of looking after the patients themselves because of their sense of responsibility and love for the care-recipient. Therefore, it is imperative to help them and assuage their strain.
To begin with, the employees should be empowered to ask for considerations from the employers. They should be able to convey their grievances to their companies and ask for what is necessary to perform their jobs and help the loved ones.
In addition, the companies, whenever possible, should offer flexible working hours to the caregivers. This will help them to function well in their duties with more efficiency. In the survey conducted by Home Instead, 84% of caregiving females believed that flexible work schedule policies would allow them to manage their work/life balance better. Another 79% said that a system allowing them to use sick leaves to care for parents would also be of great help.
It is critical to understand that since people are living longer, the cases of debilitating, age-related diseases like dementia, arthritis, strokes and Parkinson’s are occurring more frequently. Hospital stays are shorter while patients require more care at home. Consequently, more and more employees, especially women, will have to take up the responsibility of caregiving.
Therefore, government and employers should come up with solutions to deal with the rising concerns of caregiving, working daughters.
What can you, as a caregiver, do to help yourself?
In addition to workplace policies, you can also take up some measures to help you juggle the work/life balance.
First, make a list of the non-work-related tasks that you have to undertake daily or weekly. These can be shopping for groceries, taking the care-recipient to the doctor, paying their and your bills, administrating medications, household chores and so on. Even menial tasks can pile up to become cumbersome and time-consuming.
Then, decide the errands that you can delegate to other people. You should be more willing to accept help from others even if you feel that only you can provide the best care.
Evaluate your financial resources and consider hiring outside help, even if for a few hours. You can also explore care options in your vicinity or near your parents’ home. Ask around for reviews and personal experiences of families you know, who have used these services. A detailed survey will help you feel at ease that you are providing for your loved-ones to the best of your abilities.
Caregiving can also affect your health. You may occasionally experience an upset stomach, blurred vision, irritability, sleeplessness and loss of appetite. Do not ignore these indicators of an imminent mental and physical deterioration. Visit your doctor every few months to seek medical guidance and to discuss your problems. Remember, if you are not healthy yourselves, you will be unable to take care of your parents or perform well at work.
Regardless of your reasons for assuming the role of a caregiving daughter, it is never easy, especially if you are working as well. Hence, considerate workplace policies for caregivers can go a long way to help you maintain both your obligations with more efficiency and less stress.